What is the Free Venture Program?
The Free Venture Program (FVP) is a rehabilitation endeavor providing opportunities for juvenile offenders (wards) to gain valuable work experience and job-skills training, in addition to providing valuable benefits to business owners. The FVP operates in much the same way as the Joint Venture Program, except that it is located within California juvenile institutions. Both are agreements/contracts between the State of California, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and private industry business owners.
Established in 1985, the FVP program goals are to:
- Identify, develop and implement Free Venture businesses.
- Create a cooperative rehabilitation effort between the State and ward participants by enhancing job skills while reducing incarceration costs, delinquency, recidivism, and juvenile correctional facility violence.
The wards volunteer to participate in the FVP. Their employment is “at will”, and as such may be lawfully terminated by the FVP employer at any time with or without cause.
Pursuant to U.S. federal law, the FVP employers shall pay ward employees a wage comparable to wages paid by the employer to non-ward employees performing similar work for the employer. If the employer does not employ such non-ward employees in similar work, compensation shall be comparable to wages paid for work of a similar nature in the locality in which the work is to be performed. In this latter case, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) will assist employers in determining the minimum entry level wage for each job position. In no event can the minimum entry level wage be lower than the State minimum wage.
Written worker evaluations are required after every 1,040 hours worked. Ward workers receiving satisfactory performance evaluations are required by state law to receive a 2.5% increase in their wage for each 2,080 hours worked.
Net Pay Distributions
In addition to federal and state taxes, the following distributions are made from ward’s net wages:
- 20% is sent to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as a reimbursement for room and board
- 20% is used to pay wards’ restitution fines or paid directly to local crime victims’ programs
- 20% is sent directly to the ward’s family for support or used to pay court ordered wage garnishments (i.e., child support)
- 20% is deposited in a mandatory savings account which is available to the ward upon his/her parole
- 20% is placed in the ward’s account at the institution for personal use
The FVP offers your business attractive cost benefits and tax credits for employing wards within prison operations. These are pre-screened individuals with a strong desire to work and learn valuable skills. Proven to reduce recidivism, the FVP helps young offenders return more successfully to society as productive citizens after serving their time.
The FVP offers businesses:
- Long term leases at below market rates ($0.00/sq.ft.)
- A 50% discount on Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- No employee benefit packages required (medical, vacation, sick leave, etc.)
- State tax credit (California Form 3507)
- A reliable, motivated labor force ready to work immediately
- Available space in locations throughout California
- Companies can feature “Made in the USA” label